Cash Asmussen, who turned 39 years old on Thursday, isn't ready to announce his retirement, though for the first time since 1982 he won't be riding in France when the flat racing season there kicks into high gear. Instead, he'll tend to the Asmussen family business in Laredo, Texas, working with young horses, planning matings, and helping brother Steve turn an already successful public stable into what Cash hopes will be an operation capable of winning any race in the world.
Asmussen recently ended his 20-year association with the Niarchos family by what he said was "mutual agreement." The South Dakota native, winner of an Eclipse Award as leading apprentice jockey in North American in 1979, has no definite plans to return to the saddle, though he said he is keeping the door open.
"I don't want to use the 'R' word and look up in six months, still have the taste to ride, and have to change my mind," Asmussen said. "I don't want to have to make any comebacks."
So, instead of riding at Longchamp, Chantilly, and Deauville, Asmussen will work in Laredo alongside his parents, Keith and Marilyn, look over the family's broodmares in Kentucky, and assist his brother with a racing stable that currently is second behind Bob Baffert in North American earnings.
Not that he won't be thinking of his years in France, which began with a long and successful partnership with the late Francois Boutin, one of the sport's all-time leading trainers. "That's what I'll miss the most," Asmussen said, "working as a team player with the Niarchos family. That was an edge, to have people behind you that really believe in you."
But Asmussen is looking ahead to new challenges. "For the past 20 years I've spent my winters in Laredo, helping build up the family business. The only difference is this spring I won't be returning to Europe. We'll breed 50 to 60 mares, sell 50 to 60 yearlings and 2-year-olds, and have 100-plus horses going to the track every day, with decisions being made on where they'll go to compete."
Asmussen hopes some of those horses eventually go to such far-off places as Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, or Dubai, so that he can put his experience as a first-class international rider to good use. "One of the challenges in international racing are the variables," he said. "Courses are right-handed, left-handed, dirt, turf, uphill, downhill. I've had great experiences and good fortune. Let me put it this way: When Steve has a horse ready to win the Arc, we'll more than know our way from the airport to the track."
The five-time French champion rider tacked 117 pounds in Europe, and he's staying fit getting up on horses every day in Laredo. Making the weight has never been a problem for him, he said. "I left America for the scale of weight -- the scale of weight of the opportunity, not the scale of weight of the clerk of scales."